Royal seal of approval for Scotsheep event

Fresh from the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, Prince Charles will officially open the National Sheep Association’s Scotsheep 2012 event at Dumfries House, East Ayrshire tomorrow.

The Duke of Rothesay played a critical role in 2007 in saving the property, with its unique collection of priceless Chippendale furniture dating back to the 18th century.

He is also very supportive of the British sheep industry and was instrumental in the launch of the Mutton Renaissance campaign in 2004, to help sheep farmers sell older animals and get this delicious meat back on the nation’s plates.

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More recently he has vigorously supported the Campaign for Wool, an all-industry initiative to expand the market for British and Commonwealth wool and promote awareness of its environmental benefits.

The farm at Dumfries House is now run as a commercial enterprise by supermarket giant Morrisons, which has committed £2 million to developing the farming enterprise.

It now includes 700 Scotch Mule ewes, a small flock of pedigree Suffolk ewes and 250 suckler cows, including pedigree herds of Beef Shorthorn and Aberdeen Angus.

The property is also used as a demonstration farm and test bed for new ideas. It is currently one of three farms in Scotland carrying out trials for Quality Meat Scotland comparing the progeny of rams selected on performance criteria and rams selected solely on visual appraisal.

Scotsheep event chairman Neale McQuistin said that sheep farmers everywhere applauded the Duke of Rothesay for the support he gave their industry.

McQuistin said: “The practical, on-farm research work taking place on the Morrisons farm at Dumfries House, which Prince Charles has initiated, will be of great interest to the thousands of visitors attending the event and will be of immense benefit to both the sheep and beef industries in the longer term.”

l Speaking ahead of the Scotsheep event, Kathy Peebles, QMS livestock development manager, said that farmers who have had to adopt the electronic identification of sheep should be using it to their advantage.

She said: “The electronic ear tag can be used for more than just compliance purposes.”

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She wanted to see breeders and sheep keepers overcome their “fear” of using the technology so as to help identify good performers.

She added that the Scottish Sheep Strategy group was getting increased requests from breeders keen to monitor how their flock performed.

“As lambs grow, it becomes harder to try and keep track of the growth rates of individual lambs in relation to the ewe that gave birth to them. Anyone who has tried to keep track by reading individual ear tags and jotting them down on pieces of paper will know it is a bit of a nightmare.

“Ewe and tup lambs being retained for breeding carry the individual number on the plastic tag casing. However, what many breeders may not realise is that by using an electronic reader on the slaughter tags, which only show flock number on the outside, you can still pick up an individual number from the electronic chip encapsulated within the ear tag.”